Friday evening fun in Kyiv

Friday evening fun in Kyiv

We didnt have to go far the find a game last weekend.

A return to work has put some restrictions on match choices from now on. However, an early evening kick-off in the countryside of Kyiv Oblast was too good to refuse. After patiently clearing the Friday evening rush hour traffic jams of Kyiv, the cars soon filter out once the city boundaries have cleared. Happily, for Kyivites, the landscape quickly changes to beautiful forests and open fields mixed with the occasional commuter settlement. To the north of the city, the Dnipro River opens up into the Kyiv Sea along which the small town of Vyshgorod is found. It is this town that gives its name to one of the newest professional football teams in Ukraine – FC Dinaz.

Welcome to Dinaz

It is our second time visiting the club. During last season, which happened to be its first in the National League, we attended a game as well. Despite only finishing mid-table during the previous year, they gained a professional license to join the league for the first time and have started the season well. Sofia Igashova explained to me that this was just the next step in the club project, which has brought positive attention to the local community from further afield. Founding and honorary president Yaroslav Moskalenko has been a long-term member of the Ukrainian Parliament for the local region and has gained a lot of credibility nationally for his investments in sports federations in particular.

The club has now opened a new chapter in a long story, which began back in 1999. It has become renowned at a national level for its emphasis on youth development and providing an opportunity for young boys to earn a career in the game. They presently run nine youth teams and can bring in youngsters from all over the region through the bus system that the club maintains. Sofia noted that the adult teams were a final point for the youth development, with many of the first team being graduates from the youth set-up.

The adult teams had several successes throughout the previous decade at a local level, winning the regional oblast league and cup on many occasions. In 2012, they received one of the highest accolades in their history and brought them to the attention of the wider audience. For the second time in my travels this season, I had visited a club that UEFA recognized as one of the best organized across all of Europe – winning 3rd place that year. According to their official site, it was this award, which gave impetus to their push for professionalism. Nevertheless, I did note some concerns on my visit, which paralleled to Balkany Zorya trip during Week 1 of this adventure. The club draws little income from the local community, and the owner is presently funding the set-up in its entirety – questioning its longevity. I was personally happy to enter free of charge, but I would have been glad to part with ticket money for my Friday evening entertainment.

Where is the crowd?

It was noticeable on this visit that there is a demand for amenities within the usual crowd. Many people were wandering into the stadium, carrying their coffee and other hot drinks bought elsewhere. An earlier exploration of the local village of Demydiv showed a few local shops on the main road, but it was a 20-minute walk from the stadium. It would surely make sense to provide an offering or outlet within the ground as I have seen elsewhere. There is nothing more appealing at half-time than grabbing a quick drink. A chilly night game would have had a roaring trade in hot beverages – Bovril permitting.

I was also hoping to get some souvenirs from the trip as well. My hopes had been built up after last week’s visit, but Dinaz definitely has room for growth. The club has some fancy gear, and there were many officials decked out in it but, sadly for me, nowhere to purchase it onsite or elsewhere. This lack of crowd engagement did have an impact on the match atmosphere – there was not one as well. The club presently does not have a clearly defined supporter group, which did affect the feel around the ground on match day. The club has had some brilliant successes in its development and has a clear sense of pride in all it has achieved, but the community needs further engagement. I certainly felt like I was at a practice match.

A proud past

Despite these financial concerns for the club, there have been a noted number of outstanding strides towards the project goal. During the early years of the clubs’ existence, they had two graduates from the local community move on to professional football – having extended careers in the top leagues of Ukraine. Sergyi Starnyi and Sergyi Ponomarenko have become role models for local young boys, who have seen the possibilities available to them through football. It was from this viewpoint that Sofia Igashova spoke with most pride. She indicated that the club does aim to provide opportunities for the local community that is lacking elsewhere and they have seen the benefit.

Nevertheless, more recently, the club has moved even further forward in their achievements. Yaroslav Izotov, a young Dinaz defender and recent graduate from their acclaimed academy, was selected for the Ukrainian U18 team. Although many players from around the world have been chosen at this age, Ukraine has recently become World Champions at the U20 age bracket, highlighting the competition. It is awe-inspiring that a player, from the amateur leagues at the time, received such an accolade. It would be the equivalent of England calling up a player from the National League.

Two Stadium Team

FC Dinaz does have a slight quirk of nature as well, which makes the club extra intriguing to explore. They actually play at not only one stadium but two – neither are large in splendor it must be said. This week, we had the fortune the visit the summer stadium in the village of Demydiv, located a little further away from Kyiv than the Lutizh along the highway heading north towards to Belarus border along the Kyiv Sea. The Demyidiv complex is on the edge of the village surround by fields, a cemetery, and a few houses. The training pitches run one length of the pitch as seen elsewhere at this level. The crowd sat in two temporary stands that ran opposite, with the clubhouse providing a purposeful split in the crowd. I noticed club employees leaving there with hot coffee, which I enviously admired. There was a small away section portioned on the stand with a metal pole. This evening it was not in use due to no fans traveling from Chernivtsi. It will be interesting to see how they handle more massive crowds if they continue to progress through the leagues. 

They only play here during the summer months as the field is grass-based. The AstroTurf at Lutizh is considered too dangerous for full-scale matches to take place. The risk of burns, when players, fall has ensured that the football federation has not permitted the club to use their main facility. On our previous trip to that facility, we also witnessed the lack of amenities. It does make me wonder what the club could do more to stabilize their finances. Sofia did explain to me that the president is actively searching for more significant support from the local community, but the club is not concerned about its longterm existence. I had the impression that the club is happy taking small steps through their project – turning the page only when ready. It appeared that they would not risk the finances, which would put in danger the future of the club. The primary function of FC Dinaz remains to provide opportunities to the local young boys in the community.

The club appears to have a stable future, and I have to admire the work that has gone in so far. They are building a solid base but need greater support from the community now if they want to push on further. The league is littered with former clubs who have relied on the finances of a benefactor without the support of the local community. In these cases, the clubs have later fallen on hard times. Just this summer, the second division said goodbye to Myr after their president got tired of no external support for the project. This is where Dinaz differs from the other clubs we have seen on our journey. They are struggling to pull in any finances from elsewhere or even a crowd when the entry is free. As we saw in Rivne the previous week, the community has such a pivotal role to play in the development of the club. It does appear to be time for them to now step up. I hope for FC Dinaz that they do and will be watching with intrigue for the remainder of the season.

Next week we will have a doubleheader – wish us luck.

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